Russia sets deadline for Ukrainian troops to surrender in Mariupol

Servicemen of pro-Russian troops board an armored personnel carrier during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 15, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko

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April 17 (Reuters) – The Russian Defense Ministry told Ukrainian forces still fighting in the besieged southern port of Mariupol to lay down their arms from 6 a.m. Moscow time (0300 GMT) on Sunday to save their life.

Russia’s earlier claim that its troops cleared the urban area of ​​Mariupol, the scene of the war’s heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian disaster, could not be independently verified. It would be the first major city to fall to Russian forces since the February 24 invasion. Read more

Moscow said the remaining fighters in Mariupol – which it says are both Ukrainians and foreigners – are stuck in the Azovstal steel plant.

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“In view of the catastrophic situation that has developed at the Azovstal Metallurgical Plant, in addition to being guided by purely human principles, the Russian armed forces offer militants nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries from 06:00 a.m. (Moscow time) on April 17, 2022, to cease all hostilities and lay down arms,” ​​the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed that their lives will be spared.”

Under the terms of the deal Russia offered on Saturday, the remaining defenders of the Azovstal plant would leave between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. Moscow time, without arms or ammunition.

The start of the surrender would be indicated by raising flags, the ministry said: “On the Russian side – red; on the Ukrainian side – white, along the entire perimeter of Azovstal.”

There was no immediate reaction from Kyiv to the offer.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday accused Russia of “deliberately trying to destroy everyone” in Mariupol and said his government was in contact with the defenders. But he did not respond to Moscow’s assertion that Ukrainian forces were no longer in urban districts.

“I want to be heard properly at this time: there hasn’t been a single day since the Mariupol blockade began without us looking for a solution – military or diplomatic,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

“But finding this solution is extremely difficult. Until now, there was no 100% realistic option.”

Mariupol, with its strategic location on the coast of the Sea of ​​Azov, has been a target since the start of the war. It lies on the route between the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in the west and the Donetsk region in the east, partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

The Russian Defense Ministry also said it had “evacuated” 168,000 people from Mariupol so far. Ukraine said thousands of people had been forcibly displaced.

Efforts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol – some with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross – have repeatedly failed, with both sides blaming each other. Read more

Total capture of Mariupol would give Russia the chance to build a land bridge to Crimea and control the entire northern shore of the Sea of ​​Azov.

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Reporting by David Ljunggren and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan Writing by Lidia Kelly;

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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